Bhutan's Emphasis on Expanding 'Gross National Happiness'

Progressive policy in the making

| March 10, 2005

Bhutan is pioneering a holistic national agenda based on a tenet of Buddhism called jimba. In the west, jimba is most closely related to public service. Instead of capitalizing on 'production' as in Gross National Product (GNP), Bhutan is introducing the concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH) that capitalizes on the happiness that public service, or jimba, yields.

Vajrayana Buddhism includes three categories of jimba actions. These include the commitment of time or money to the needy, the offering of kind words, wise counsel, refuge, or protection, and promotion of the 'right path' to encourage the 'enlightenment' of one's fellow citizens.

The GNH initiative grew out of the Buddhist philosophy that human desire brings unhappiness and suffering. The act of public service decreased the desire to end suffering and thus, promoted overall happiness. Bhutanese officials are hoping to foster a society in which both the giver and the receiver of public service will cultivate happiness, resulting in the overall betterment of the nation.

Ultimately, Gross National Happiness will be realized through the jimba trinity fulfilling four major national goals for Bhutan: economic self-reliance, environmental preservation, cultural promotion, and good governance.
-- Marca Bradt

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